The Texas Republican Who Hates Bush


Texas Republican Tom Paucken. Photo Harry Cabluck -

The movement to rehabilitate the former president’s image is misguided, former Texas GOP Chair Tom Pauken tells Lloyd Grove. Instead, party faithful should be searching for true conservatives to turn the country around.

By Lloyd Grove in The Daily Beast

George W. Bush’s legacy-burnishing machine is up and running, scrubbing and polishing the 43rd president’s rusted image. The Bush Presidential Center is busily raising money for his library, museum, and think tank, to be built on the campus of Southern Methodist University, not far from George and Laura’s new home in Dallas.

What’s more, the former president’s diehard loyalists—including his chief strategist, Karl Rove, his favorite spinmeister, Karen Hughes, and an army of assorted camp followers—are preparing a last hurrah, for old time’s sake, in advance of the publication of his White House memoirs (and, coincidentally or not, the 2010 midterm elections).

“Unfortunately, the Republican Party in the post-Reagan period got hijacked by a group of people who claimed they were conservative but were really Machiavellian pragmatists like Rove.”

So why is fellow Texan Tom Pauken, who was chairman of the Lone Star State’s Republican Party when Bush was its two-term governor, standing athwart revisionist history, yelling stop?

“The Bush administration really squandered a lot of the political capital that a lot of Reagan conservatives had built up over three decades,” says Pauken, who these days is Gov. Rick Perry’s appointed chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, which administers unemployment benefits. “There’s an openness to, if you will, asking and seeking answers to the question, What happened? How did we mess it up? How did we set the scene for the Obama administration to come to power?”

Pauken says the Bushes, father and son, have done so much damage to modern Republicanism that not even Dubya’s younger brother Jeb, the highly regarded former governor of Florida, is a leader he could follow. “My view,” Pauken says, “with all due respect, is no more Bushes!”

The 66-year-old Pauken—who toiled in Barry Goldwater’s quixotic 1964 presidential campaign, ran the national College Republicans six years before Rove got the job, and in the late 1960s served as an Army intelligence officer in Vietnam—doesn’t mind being the skunk at the garden party.

“The Bush years were a huge failure, both economically and internationally,” he tells me. “On the economy, we’re not doing anything to create private-sector jobs, and we’re losing our manufacturing base, but it didn’t happen overnight. It’s accelerating during the Obama administration, but from 1999 to 2009, we lost one-third of our U.S. manufacturing jobs. Five million good American jobs have gone away. Internationally, the Bush administration didn’t deal effectively with the threat of radicalism.”

Pauken, who volunteered for Vietnam at the height of the bloodshed in 1967, is particularly scornful of advocates of the Iraq invasion who avoided combat themselves—and he doesn’t necessarily exempt the former president. He sees the adventure as ruinous, both in terms of fiscal and foreign policy.

Read the rest at Lloyd Grove in The Daily Beast.


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